Kids score well in English, low in math on new Missouri test

Written by Muleskinner Staff

By SUMMER BALLENTINE

(JEFFERSON CITY, Mo., AP) — Most Missouri students scored at least at proficient levels in English on a new statewide test last school year, while students in most grades scored lower in math, according to data released Tuesday by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
The scores are the first from an assessment given in the spring that was designed to gauge how well students are learning new standards fully implemented for the first time last school year. This also was the first time students in grades three through eight were tested online for these assessments.
The new math and English standards are aligned with the national Common Core guidelines for what students should learn in each grade.
Education officials cautioned that it’s difficult to draw conclusions from the most recent assessment data because the test is new. So far, there’s no national data on student performance in other states that administered the test in the spring and no data from previous years in Missouri that could be used for comparison.
But in general, Missouri students performed better than expected in almost every grade level based on field tests in 21 states from 2014.
Nationally, between about 30 and 40 percent of students in states with Common Core were expected to score at proficient levels.
More than half the students in grades three through eight scored proficient in English, with a low of 55 percent of sixth-grade students testing at proficient and a high of about 59 percent of students in fifth grade.
A high of 52 percent of third-grade students were at least proficient in math. Scores dropped in the higher grades to roughly 28 percent of some eighth-grade students testing as proficient — the only grade that tested below the national field test results. But that percentage does not include eighth-grade students in Algebra I, and Education Commissioner Margie Vandeven said those students bump the percentage of eighth-graders at proficiency up to about 41 percent.
“What that does tell us is that changing standards has an impact on performance, and we know that,” Vandeven said, referencing the math scores. “Again, it’s all relative because there’s no context.”
Students face a different test in the coming school year after lawmakers acted to block state money from going to the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium — which is linked to Common Core — and required the education department to develop a new, Missouri-based assessment. That means the state no longer will be able to compare test data directly with other states.
The assessment results prompted criticism from the Missouri Association of School Administrators, which said in a written statement that state and federal policymakers should “re-evaluate an overemphasis on mandatory standardized testing.”
“If the state wants accurate data in order to compare one district to another or one state to another state,” said Mike Lodewegen, the association’s associate executive director, “schools are going to need some consistency from policymakers at the top.”
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